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Jean Cocteau (1889-1963)


French artist and writer, who made his name widely known in poetry, fiction, film, ballet, painting, and opera. Jean Cocteau's works reflect the influence of surrealism, psychoanalysis, cubism, Catholic Religion; occasionally they were opium influenced. In his time Cocteau was a promoter of avant-garde styles and fashions. His friends included such prominent figures as Pablo Picasso, the composer Erik Satie, the writer Marcel Proust, and the Russian director Serge Diaghilev.

"The worst tragedy for a poet is to be admired through being misunderstood." (from Le Rappel à l'Ordre, 1926)

Jean Cocteau was born in Maisons-Lafitte into a wealthy Parisian family, which also was politically prominent. His father, Georges, was a lawyer and amateur painter, who committed suicide when Cocteau was nine. However, he had a lasting influence on his son. It is said that this tragic event also created Cocteau's awareness of human weakness, which he compensated by putting himself in the service of the performing arts and the mysterious forces in the universe. Poetry was for Cocteau the basis of all art, a "religion without hope".

At the age of fifteen, Cocteau left home. He was in the secondary school only a mediocre student, and unsuccessful after repeated attempts to pass the graduation examination. At the age of 19, Cocteau published huis first volume of poems, Aladdin's Lamp. Soon he became known in the bohemian artistic circles as 'The Frivolous Prince' - the title of a volume of poems he had published at twenty-one. The American writer Edith Wharton described him as a man, "to whom every great line of poetry was a sunrise, every sunset the foundation of the Heavenly City..." (A Backward Glance: An Autobiography by Edith Wharton, introduction by Louis Auchincloss, 1998, p. 285) In his early twenties Coctreau became associated with Proust, Gide, and Maurice Barrès. He was also a close friend of Victor Hugo's great-grandson, Jean.

In 1915 Cocteau met Picasso and fell under his spell. "I admired his intelligence, and clung to everything he said, for he spoke little; I kept still so as not to miss a word. There were long silences and Varèse could not understand why we stared wordlessly at each other. In talking, Picasso used a visual syntax, and you could immediately see what he was saying. He liked formulas and summoned himself up in his statements as he summoned himself up and sculptured himself in objects that he immediately made tangible." (Pablo Picasso: His Life and Times by Pierre Cabanne, 1977, p. 176) Cocteau and the poet Apollinaire were witnesses at Picasso's wedding to Olga. They held gold crowns over the heads of the bride and groom as they circles three times round the altar at the Russian Orthodox church in the rue Daru. Cocteau's friendship with Picasso continued even after the artist remarked in an interview: "He is not a poet. Rimbaud is the only one. Jean is only a journalist." Picasso: Creator and Destroyer by Arianna Stassinopoulos Huffington, 1989, p. 186) Moreover, Picasso also used to say, "I am the comet; Cocteau is but a spark in my tail." (Jean Cocteau: A Life by Claude Arnaud, 2016, p. 444)

The Russian ballet-master Sergei Diaghilev challenged Cocteau to write for the ballet - "Surprise me," he urged. This resulted Parade (1917), produced by Diaghilev, designed by Pablo Picasso, and composed by Erik Satie. Apollinaire wrote the program notes, inventing the word "surrealism" in the process. Thanks to Cocteau, the genius of Satie, who earned living by night playing piano in Parisian clubs and cabarets, was acknowledged. The ballet premiered at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris on May 18, 1917, when the war was still going on in the WWI trenches. Satie's music included the rattle of typewriters, which sounded like machine guns.

Many audience members hissed at this symbolic beginning of modern art. "If it had not been for Apollinaire in uniform," wrote Cocteau exaggerating, "with his skull shaved, the scar on his temple and the bandage around his head, women would have gouged our eyes out with hairpins." (Picasso: Creator and Destroyer by Arianna Stassinopoulos Huffington, 1989, p. 152)

Satie and Picasso realized that they had more in common with each other than with Cocteau, who at that time was a conservative by though and a rebel in art. "Picasso has ideas that I like better than our Jean's," confessed Satie. "How awful!" (Picasso: Creator and Destroyer by Arianna Stassinopoulos Huffington, 1989, p. 145) Satie and Picasso worked together in the short ballet Les Aventures de Mercure (1924) without the intervention of Cocteau. Its subject was aimed at their friend, who was fascinated by this mythological figure and liked to dress himself in a Mercury outfit– winged helmet, winged shoes, silver tights – whenever fancy dress was called for.

Le Potomak (1919), which established Cocteau's reputation as a writer, was a prose fantasy centering around a creature, who lives caged in an aquarium. The theme of the poet's ability to see clearly into the world of the dead was a central theme is Cocteau's early poems, such as in 'L'ange Heurtebise'  (1925).  Cocteau's first major work of criticism, Le Rappel à l'ordre, came out in 1926. His adaptation of Sophocles' Antigone was performed in 1922 with scenery by Picasso and music by Paul Honegger. However, Coco Chanel stole many headlines with the costumes she made for the play.

During World War I Cocteau served as an ambulance driver on the Belgian front. His poems from this period, Le Cap de Bonne-Espérance (1919), established him among the first rank of young poets. Soon after the war he met the future poet and novelist Raymond Radiguet, whose early death of typhoid fever was a hard blow to him. To relieve his grief,  Cocteau rented a room (number 6) from the Hôtel Napoleon (a.k.a. Hôtel Saint-Germain-des-Prés) where he held small gatherings and smoked opium. After he moved out, the American novelist occupied the room and wrote there much of her fictionalized autobiography, We Lived as Children. Cocteau's Parisian residence was at 10 Rue d'Anjou, but usually he worked in a nearby hotel. Madame de Chivgny (Madame de Guermantes in Marces Proust's Remembrance of Things Past) live one flight below Cocteau. Colette, who was his neigbour at the Palais-Royal in the 1940s, influenced his interest in cats. He had many feline companions, of whom Karoun had a special place in his heart. Cocteau called him the "King of Cats" and dedicated Drôle de Ménage (1948) to his pet.

With Thomas the Impostor (1923) Cocteau turned to the psychological novel. The masterpiece Les Enfants terribles (1929), written in three weeks, was about four children who are trapped in their own frightening world. In 1929 Cocteau was hospitalized for opium poison. Opium (1930) was an account of his addiction.

In 1926 Coctau designated the set for the opera Pelléas et Mélisande by Claude Debussy. He also collaborated with Stravinsky on Oedipus-Rex, an opera-oratoria. Orphée (1926), an original, one-act tragedy, was performed in Paris by Georges and Ludmilla Pitoëff. La Voix humaine (1930) was an one-character play consisting of a telephone conversation. The famous sketch Le Bel Indifférent (1940), about an older woman and her younger, indifferent lover, was originally written for Edith Piaf.

Cocteau's first feature film, The Blood of a Poet, was based on his own private mythology. Typical for his films is the use of a mirror as a door into another world. For Cocteau, reality was mystery. In The Blood of a Poet Enrique Rivero crashes through the surface of a large mirror. "Try, always try," his muse, Lee Miller, says. The hostility of the surrealists led Cocteau to abandon the avant-garde for something closer to classicism. His greatest play, The Infernal Machine, written before WW II, presented Oedipus as a marionette in the hands of gods. The work was based on Oedipus Rex by the ancient Greek playwright Sophocles.

As the result of a bet with the newspaper Paris-Soir, Cocteau completed the itinery imagined by Jules Verne in Around the World in Eighty Days, depicting his travels in My First Voyage (1936). Cocteau played the role of Phileas Fogg, his Passepartout was the young Algerian Marcel Khill, his lover and part-time secretary. Their adventure became an exploration of a world no one else has ever seen. In Egypt, the Great Sphinx grows smaller and smaller the closer they get; eventually it eats out of their hand. Bombay reeks like a charnel-house, the women are mere beasts of burden. In Hollywood, Marlene Dietrich and Gary Cooper seem to move in an atmosphere of scabrous picture-postcards.

On the voyage from Hawaii to the Far East, Cocteau met Charles Chaplin aboard the President Coolidge; it led to a fleeting friendship, although they had little in common. Chaplin, whose comedy Modern Times had just premiered in New York, revealed that his dream was to make a picture of the Crucifixation. While it is true that they both were on the same cargo ship, in his autobiography Chaplin tells that he made often futile attempts to avoid Cocteau, whose male companion Marcel tried to bridge the French-English language gap.

Cocteau's close friendship with young Jean Marais started in 1937, when Marais played the role in the play Knights of the Round Table. From this production, he designed leading roles especially for Marais. Cocteau returned to filmmaking in the 1940s, producing Beauty and the Beast (1946), Orphée (1950), and Le testament d'Orphée (1961), in which he played himself on the screen. The film dealt with one of Cocteau's favorite theme, the death, which he often called his "mistress," but argued that  in the film "there is no Death and no angel. There can be none. Heurtebise is a young Death serving in one of the numerous sub-orders of Death, and the Princess is no more Death than an air hostess is an angel." ('Orpheus' by Jean Cocteau, in The Current, Essays, April 24, 2000)

In Orphée Cocteau connected the theme of death with the theme of inspiration. Jean Marais was a celebrated poet. He visits a café where receives the advice: "Astonish us." The Princess (Maria Casarès) tries to prevent a drunken young poet, Cégèste (Edouard Dhermite) from scattering his papers about. He is knocked over by two motor-cyclists. Orphée carries Cégèste to Princess's Rolls Royce. Her chauffeur, Heurtebise, phones the police. Cégèste dies. The Princess takes Orphée to a chalet, where she leads Cégèste through a mirror. At home Orphée's wife Eurydice discusses with the Commissioner of Police and Aglaonice (Juliette Gréco). During the nights the Princess appears in Orphée's room. The Princess leads Eurydice to the underworld. Heurtebise tells Orphée that there is a chance of reclaiming Eurydice. "Mirrors are the doors through which death comes and goes..." he says. Beyond the mirror – the Zone – he is allowed to reclaim Eurydice, but on the condition that he never looks at her again. The Princess and Orphée declare their undying love for each other. Aglaonice and her friends want to revenge the death of Cégèste and Orphée is killed. Again Heurtebise and Orphée return to The Zone. The Princess orders Cégèste and Heurtebise to "kill" the poet who awakes beside Eurydice. The Princess and Heurtebise must face their own punishment. "One might see the Princess as a black angel, a guardian devil, trying to prevent Orphée from a healthy domestic life with Eurydice. Or, if the film is an allegory about the poet and the poetry, the Princess is a false muse, a black goddess, a 'negative' of the white variety worshipped by Robert Graves." (Durgnat on Film by Raymond Durgnat, 1976, pp. 208-209)

Cocteau's mother, Eugénie Lecomte, died in 1943. During World War II the Vichy government branded Cocteau as "decadent." However, Cocteau praised in 1942 in a front-page article Arno Breker, Hitler's favorite sculptor, a mistake which did not go unnoticed. "Freud, Kafka, and Chaplin have been banned by the same people who honor Breker," wrote Paul Éluard in a letter. "You were believed to be among those forbidden. How wrong you have been to suddenly show yourself among these censors!" (Jean Cocteau: A Life by Claude Arnaud, 2016, p. 663) The collaborationist press denounced him as a homosexual and German police closed performances of his plays after riots. Cocteau was never ostensibly interested in politics, he denounced the Vichy government, and at the same time took no active part in the Resistance. An investigation after the liberation in 1944 cleared Cocteau of charges of collaboration, but many of his contempories maintained that he had betrayed his country. In 1949 Cocteau was made a Chevalier of the Legion of Honour.

Cocteau's romantic play L'Aigle à deux têtes (1946), which took its theme from the murder of Empress Elizabeth of Austria, has been filmed twice. The first version from 1947 was directed by the author himself, starring Edwige Feuillére as the Queen, and Jean Marais as her lover and would-be assassin. A new version was made in 1980 by Michelangelo Antonioni under the title The Mystery of Oberwald. Antonioni was not especially fond of the original play, most of all he wanted to work with Monica Vitti, who was cast in the role of the Queen.

In 1949 Cocteau made a trip to the United States and a theatrical tour of the Middle East. He continued living an active life until 1953 when ill healt forced him into semiretirement. Cocteau still went on to astonish the public. He had his face lifted and he started to wear leather trousers and matador's capes. In 1955 he was elected to Belgian Academy and the Acadèmie Française - Picasso's design for the sword hilt of the Academician's traditional insignia was a drawing of a toilet seat, a flushing chain and a toilet-bowl brush. In his last decade Cocteau worked in a wide variety of graphic arts. At the age of 70 he painted frescos in the town hall of Menton and in the chapel of Saint-Pierre at Ville-franche-sur Mer. Cocteau's mural at Notre-Dame de France in London were finished in 1960. Unconventionally, we see the crucified figure in the middle only from knees down; the identity of the figure is open to speculations. At the foot of the cross is a rose, a Rose-Croix device. The artist himself is among characters in the foreground, but he has turned his back on the cross.

As his private life, Cocteau's Catholicism was highly unorthodox. He redecorated churches, and it has said that Cocteau was also the Grand Master of a secret brotherhood, the Priority of Sion, originally founded in Jerusalem in 1099. Cocteau appeared on the list of Sion's alleged Grand Masters as Jean XIII.

"To enclose the collected works of Cocteau one would need not a bookshelf, but a warehouse..." said W.H. Auden. Picasso declared once that Cocteau was so famous in Paris that all the chic coiffeurs had copies of his poems on their tables. (Bohemian Paris: Picasso, Modigliani, Matisse, and the Birth of Modern Art by Dan Franck, 2001, p. 224) Cocteau died in Milly, outside Paris, on October 11, 1963. He was preparing a radio broadcast in memory of Edith Piaf and when he head she had expired, he exclaimed: "Ah, la Piaf est morte, je peux mourir", and sank into a coronary himself. Cocteaus's last film was his faithful adaptation of the novel from Madame de La Fayette, The Princess of Cleves. The American artist and film maker Andy Warhol, who perhaps felt a spiritual affinity with Cocteau, later developed the vision of him as an icon in a series of screenprints.

For further reading: Jean Cocteau, ou La vérité du mensonge by C. Mauric (1945); Dramaturgie de Jean Cocteau by P. Dubourg (1954); Scandal and Parade by N. Oxenhandler (1957); Jean Cocteau: The History of a Poet's Age by W. Fowlie (1966); An Impersonation of Angels by F. Brown (1968); Jean Cocteau by R. Gilson (1969); Cocteau: a Biography by F. Steegmuller (1970); Jean Cocteau by W. Fitfield (1976); Eléments tragiques dans le théâtre de Jean Cocteau by I. Filipowska (1976); Jean Cocteau and His Films of Orphic Identity by A.B. Evans (1977); The Easthetic of Jean Cocteau by L. Crowson (1978); The Dance Theatre of Jean Cocteau by Frank, W.D. Ries (1986); Jean Cocteau and His World: An Illustrated Biography by Arthur King Peters (1987); Cocteau: A Biography by Francis Steegmuller (1992); Jean Cocteau: Erotic Drawings, ed. by Annie Guedras (2000); Jean Cocteau: Testament of Orpheus by Lucien Clergue, David Lehardy Sweet (2001); The Cinema of Jean Cocteau: Essays on His Films and Their Coctelian Sources, ed. by C. D. E. Tolton (2003); When Paris Sizzled: the 1920s Paris of Hemingway, Chanel, Cocteau, Cole Porter, Josephine Baker, and Their Friends by Mary McAuliffe (2016); Jean Cocteau: a Life by Claude Arnaud; translated by Lauren Elkin and Charlotte Mandell (2016) - See also: Colette, Andre Bréton. Suom: Runosuomennoksia teoksessa Tulisen järjen aika, toim. Aale Tynni (1962). Jean Cocteau - runoilija elokuvantekijänä, toim. Peter von Bagh, ilmestyi 1993.

Selected works:

  • La Lampe d'Aladin, 1908
  • Le Prince frivole, 1910
  • La Danse de Sophocle, 1912
  • Le Dieu bleu, 1912 (ballet scenario)
  • Parade, 1917 (ballet scenario)
  • Le Coq et l'Arlequin, 1918
    - Cock and Harlequin (translated by Rollo H. Myers, 1921)
  • Dans le ciel de la patrie, 1918
  • Le Cap de Bonne-Espérance, 1919
  • Ode à Picasso, 1919
  • Le Potomak, 1919 (rev. ed. 1934)
  • Discours du grand sommeil, 1920
  • Carte blanche, 1920
  • Escales, 1920 (with André Lhote)
  • Le Bœuf sur le toit, 1920 (ballet scenario)
  • Escale - Poésies 1917-1920, 1920
  • Les Mariés de la tour Eiffel, 1921 (with others)
  • La noce massacrée, 1921
  • Vocabulaire, 1922
  • Antigone, 1922
    - Antigone (translated by Carl Wildman, in Five Plays, 1961)
    - Antigone (suom. Vilho Kallioinen)
  • Le Secret professionnel, 1922
    - Professional Secrets: An Autobiography (translated by Richard Howard, 1970)
  • Le Grand Écart, 1923
    - The Grand Écart (translated by Lewis Galantière, 1925) / The Miscreant (translated by Dorothy Williams, 1958)
  • Thomas l'imposteur, 1923 (film 1965, co-sc., co-dial. from the novel, dir. by Georges Franju, starring Emmanuelle Riva, Fabrice Rouleau, Jean Servais)
    - Thomas the Imposter (translated by Lewis Galantière, 1925) / The Impostor (translated by Dorothy Williams, 1957)
  • Dessins, 1923
  • Picasso, 1923
  • La Rose de François, 1923
  • Plain-chant, 1923
  • Poèsie 1916-23, 1924
  • Les mariés de la tour Eiffel, 1924 (play)
    - The Eiffel Tower Wedding Party (translated by Dudley Fitts, in The Infernal Machine and Other Plays, 1963) / The Wedding on the Eiffel Tower (translated by Michael Benedikt, in Modern French Plays, 1965)
  • Les Biches, 1924
  • Le Train bleu, 1924 (ballet scenario)
  • Ferat, 1924
  • Le Mystère de Jean l'oiseleur, 1925
  • Cri écrit, 1925
  • Prière mutilée, 1925
  • L'Ange Heurtebise, 1926
  • Lettre à Jacques Maritain, 1926
  • Le Rappel à l'ordre, 1926
    - A Call to Order (translated by Rollo H. Myers, 1926)
  • Orphée, 1926 (play, first performed in 1926; film 1950, sc. dir., starring Jean Marais, Maria Casarès, Marie Déa, Juliette Gréco )
    - Orpheus (translated by Carl Wildman, 1933; John Savacool, in The Infernal Machine and Other Plays, 1963) 
    - Orfeus (suom. Kari Salosaari)
  • Maison de santé: Dessins, 1926
  • Roméo et Juliette, 1926 (play)
  • Opéra: Oeuvres poétiques 1925-27, 1927
  • Le pauvre matelot, 1927 (play, music by Milhaud)
  • Œdipe-roi, 1927 (play, prod. in 1927, music by Stravinsky)
  • Le mystère laïc, 1928
  • Le Livre blanc, 1928
    - The White Paper (tr. 1957) / The White Book (translated by Margaret Crossland, 1989)
    - Valkoinen kirja (suom. Kari Lampinen, 1986)
  • Les Enfants terribles, 1929 (film 1950, dir. by Jean-Pierre Melville, starring Nicole Stéphane, Edouart Dermit, Renée Cosima)
    - Enfants Terribles (translated by Samuel Putnam, 1930) / The Incorrigible Children / Children of the Game (translated by Rosamond Lehmann, 1955) / The Holy Terrors (translated by Rosamond Lehmann, 1957)
    - Les enfants terribles=Kauhukakarat  (suom. Sirkka Suomi, 1985) 
  • Une entrevue sur la critique avec Maurice Rouzaud, 1929
  • 25 dessins d'un dormeur, 1929
  • Opium: journal d'une désintoxication, 1930
    - Opium: The Diary of an Addict (translated by Ernest Boyd, 1932) / Opium: The Diary of a Cure (translated by Margaret Crosland and Sinclair Road, 1957)
    - Oopiumi: päiväkirja viueroituskuurin ajalta (suom. Sirkka Suomi, 1987)
  • Le Sang d'un poète, 1930 (director-writer; film 1932, starring Lee Miller, Enrique Rivero, Féral Benga ) [Runoilijan veri]
    - The Blood of a Poet (tr. 1949) 
  • La Voix humaine, 1930 (play; film 1970, based on an opera by Francis Poulence, dir. by Dominique Delouche )
    - The Human Voice (translated by Carl Wildman, 1951) / The Human Voice: A Play = La voix humaine (English version by Anthony Wood, 1992)
    - Ihmisääni (suom. Raoul af Hällström, 1963)
  • Essai de critique indirecte, 1932
    - An Essay in Indirect Criticism (translated by Olga Rudge, 1936)
  • Morceaux choisis, 1932
  • Mythologie, 1934
  • La Machine infernale, 1934 (play)
    - The Infernal Machine (translated by Carl Wildman, 1936; Albert Bermel, in The Infernal Machine and Other Plays, 1963)
  • Portraits-Souvenir 1900-1914, 1935
    - Paris Album 1900-1914 (translated by Margaret Crosland, 1956) / Souvenir Portraits (translated by Jesse Browner, 1991)
  • Soixante dessins pour  "Les Enfants terribles", 1935
  • Le Fantôme de Marseille, 1936
  • Mon Premier voyage, 1936
    - Round the World Again in Eighty Days (translated by Stuart Gilbert, 1937) / My Journey Round the World (translated by Walter J. Strachan, 1958)
    - Maailman ympäri 80 päivässä (suom. Jaana Seppänen, 2015)
  • Les Chevaliers de la Table ronde, 1937 (play)
    - The Knights of the Round Table (translated by  W.H. Auden, in The Infernal Machine and Other Plays, 1963)
  • Les Parents terribles, 1938 (play)
    - Parents Terribles (translated by Jeremy Sams, 1994) / Intimate Relations (translated by C. Frank, in Five Plays, 1962)
    - Kurittoman vanhemmat (suom. Mauno Manninen, 1964)
  • La Fin du Potomak, 1939
  • Énigmes, 1939
  • Le Bel Indifférent, 1940
    - The Sound of Silence (translated Anthony Wood, 1992)
    - Kaunis välinpitämätön (suom. Raoul af Hällström, 1963)
  • Les Monstres sacrés, 1940 (play)
    - The Holy Terrors (translated by E.O. Marsh, in Five Plays, 1962)
  • La Comédie du Bonheur, 1940 (screenplay; film based on Nicholas Evreinoff's play, dir. Marcel L'Herbier, starring Michel Simon, Ramon Novarro, Jacqueline Delubac)
  • La Machine à écrire, 1941 (play)
    - The Typewriter (translated by Ronald Duncan, 1947)
    - Kirjoituskone (suom. Raoul af Hällström)
  • Allégories, 1941
  • Dessins en marge du texte "Des Chevaliers de la Table ronde", 1941
  • Le Baron fantôme, 1942 (screenplay with Serge de Poligny; dir. Serge de Poligny, starring Odette Joyeux, Jany Holt, Alain Cuny ) 
  • Renaud et Armide, 1943 (play)
  • Le Greco, 1943
  • L'Éternel Retour, 1943 (screenplay; dir. Jean Delannoy, starring Jean Marais, Madeleine Sologne, Jean Murat )
    - L'eternel retour (tr. in Three Screenplays, 1972) 
  • La Malibran, 1943 (film; actor as Alfred de Musset, starring Sacha Guitry, Géori Boué, Suzy Prim)
  • Les Poèmes allemands, 1944
  • L'Aigle à deux têtes, 1944
  • Portrait de Mounet-Sully, 1945
  • Léone, 1945
    - Leoun (tr. 1960)
  • Les Dames du bois de Boulogne, 1945 (sc. with Robert Bresson; film based on Denis Diderot's novel Jacques le Fataliste, dir. by Robert Bresson, starring Maria Cesares and Elina Labourdette )
  • L'Aigle à deux têtes, 1946 (play)
    - The Eagle Has Two Heads (adapted by Ronald Duncan, 1948) / The Eagle with Two Heads (translated by Carl Wildman, 1961)
    - Kaksoiskotka (suom. Ritva Arvelo, 1964)
  • Le Jeune Homme et la Mort, 1946 (ballet scenario)
  • La Belle et la Bête, 1946 (director-writer, film based on a fairy tale by Mme. Leprince de Beaumont, starring Jean Marais, Josette Day, Mila Parely ) [Kaunotar ja hirviö]    
    - Beauty and the Beast (tr. Ronald Duncan) / La Belle et la bête (tr. in Three Screenplays, 1972)   
  • La Belle et la Bête: Journal d'un film, 1946
    - Diary of a Film (translated by Ronald Duncan, 1950)
  • Poésie critique, 1946
  • La Crucifixion, 1947
    - Crucifixion (translated by Jack Hirschman, 1988)
  • La Difficulté d'être, 1947
    - Difficulty of Being (translated by Elizabeth Sprigge, 1966)
  • Le Foyer des artistes, 1947
  • Deux travestis, 1947
  • Oeuvres complètes, 1947-50 (10 vols.)
  • Ruy Blas, 1947 (screenplay; film based on Victor Hugo's play, dir. Pierre Billon, starring Jean Marais, Danielle Darrieux, Gabrielle Dorziat)
  •  Poèmes, 1948
  • L'Aigle à deux têtes, 1948 (director-writer, starring Edwige Feuillère, Jean Marais, Silvia Montfort; The Mystery of Oberwald, 1980, dir. by Michelangelo Antonioni, starring Monica Vitti, Franco Branciaroli, Paolo Bonacelli)
  • Le Sang d'un Poète, 1948 (screenplay)
    - The Blood of a Poet (translated by Lily Pons, 1949; Carol Martin-Sperry, in Two Screenplays, 1968)
  • Una Voca Umana, 1948 (film; episode in L'Amore)
  • Reines de la France, 1948
  • Art and Faith: Letters Between Jacques Maritain and Cocteau, 1948 (translated by John Coleman)
  • Drôle de ménage, 1948
  • Les Parents terribles, 1948 (director-writer; starring Jean Marais, Yvonne de Bray, Gabrielle Dorziat)
  • Théâtre I-II, 1948
  • Lettres aux Américains, 1949
  • Les Noces de Sable, 1949 (screenplay)
  • Maalesh, 1949
    - Maalesh: A Theatrical Tour in the Middle-East (translated by Mary C. Hoeck, 1956)
  • Théâtre de Poche, 1949 (scenarios, sketches, radio works)
  • Almanach du théâtre et du cinéma, 1949 (editor)
  • Choix de lettres de Max Jacob à Jean Cocteau: 1919-1944, 1949 (editor)
  • Un tramway nommé Désir, 1949 (play, based on Paule de Beaumont's translation of the play by Tennessee Williams)
  • Dufy, 1949
  • Orson Welles, 1950 (with André Bazin)
  • Modigliani, 1950
  • Orphée, 1950 (screenplay, director)
    - Orphée (tr. in Three Screenplays, 1972)
  • L'épouse injustement soupçonnée, 1950 [The Unjustly Suspected Wife]
  • Les Enfants terribles, 1950 (co-sc.; dir. by Jean-Pierre Melville, starring Nicole Stéphane, Edouart Dermit, Renée Cosima )  
  • Jean Marais, 1951
  • Bacchus, 1951
    - Bacchus (translated by Mary Hoeck, in The Infernal Machine and Other Plays, 1963)
  • Entretiens autour du cinématographe, 1951 (rev. ed. by André Bernard and Claude Gauteur, 1973)
    - Cocteau on the Film (translated by Vera Traill, 1954) / The Art of Cinema (translated by Robin Buss, 1992)
  • Le Journal d'un Inconnu, 1952
    - The Hand of a Stranger (translated by Alec Brown, 1956) / Diary of an Unknown (translated by Jesse Browner, 1988)
  • Le Chiffre sept, 1952
  • La Nappe du Catalan, 1952 (with Georges Hugnet)
  • La Villa Santo-Sospir, 1952 (screenplay; director)
  • La nappe du catalan, 1952
  • La corona Negra, 1952 (screenplay)  
  • Gide Vivant, 1952 (with Julien Green)  
  • Appoggiatures, 1953
  • Démarche d'un poète, 1953
  • Dentelle d'éternité, 1953
  • La Dame à la licorne, 1953 (ballet scenario)
  • Clair-obscur, 1954
  • Colette, 1955
  • Aux confins de la Chine, 1955
  • Lettre sur la poésie à Robert Goffin , 1955
  • Le Dragon des mets, 1955
  • Discours de réception de M. Jean Cocteau à l'Académie française et réponse de M. André Maurois, 1955
  • Le discours de Strasbourg, 1956
  • Le Discours d'Oxford, 1956
  • Poèmes 1916-1955, 1956
  • The Journals, 1956 (edited and translated by Wallace Fowlie)
  • Adieu à Mistinguett, 1956
  • L'Art est un sport, 1956
  • Impression. Arts de la rue, 1956
  • Jean Cocteau chez les sirènes: une expérience de linguistique sur le discours de réception à l'Académie française, 1956 (edited by Jean Dauven)
  • Témoignage, 1956
  • Entretiens sur le musée de Dresde, 1957 (with Louis Aragon)
    - Conversations in the Dresden Gallery (translated by Francis Scarfe, 1983)
  • Erik Satie, 1957
  • La Chapelle Saint-Pierre, Villefranche-sur-Mer, 1957
  • La Corrida du 1er mai, 1957
  • Comme un miel noir, 1958 (in French and English)
  • Paraprosodies, 1958
  • La Salle des mariages: Hôtel de ville de Menton, 1958
  • Gondole des morts, 1959 (illustrated by Jean Cocteau)
  • Le poète et sa muse, 1959 (ballet scenario)
  • La canne blanche, 1959
  • Poésie critique I-II, 1959-1960
  • Le Testament d'Orphée, 1960 (director-writer; starring Jean Cocteau, Jean-Pierre Léaud, Nicole Courcel )
    - The Testament of Orpheus (translated by Carol Martin-Sperry, in Two Screenplays, 1968)
  • Cher Menteur, 1960 (from the play by Jerome Kilty)
  • Modigliani - Quinze dessins et aquarelles, 1960 (editor)
  • Notes sur "Le Testament d'Orphée", 1960
  • Nouveau théâtre de poche, 1960  
  • Five Plays, 1961
  • Cérémonial espagnol du Phénix, 1961
  • La Partie d'échecs, 1961
  • La Princesse de Clèves, 1961 (screenplay; film based on the novel by Mme. de La Fayette, dir. Jean Delannoy, starring Jean Marais, Marina Vlady, Jean François Poron)
  • Le Cordon ombilical, 1962
  • Le Requiem, 1962
  • Hommage, 1962
  • L'Impromptu du Palais-Royal, 1962 (play)
  • La Comtesse de Noailles, oui et non, 1963
  • Adieux d'Antonio Ordonez, 1963
  • La Mésangère, 1963
  • Portrait souvenir, 1964
  • Jean Cocteau entretien avec Roger Stéphane, 1964
  • Entretiens avec André Fraigneau, 1965
  • Thomas l'Imposteur, 1965 (screenplay)
  • Pégase, 1965
  • My Contemporaries, 1967 (edited and translated by Margaret Crosland)
  • Entre Picasso et Radiguet, 1967
  • Faire-Part, 1968
  • Two Screenplays: The Blood of a Poet, The Testament of Orpheus, 1968 (translated by Carol Martin-Sperry)
  • Professional Secrets: An Autobiography, 1970 (edited by Robert Phelps)
  • Lettres à André Gide, 1970 (edited by Jean-Jacques Kihm)
  • Le Gendarme incompris, 1971 
  • Cocteau's World, 1972 (edited and translated by Margaret Crosland)
  • Three Screenplays, 1973
  • Jean Cocteau par Jean Cocteau, 1973
  • Du cinématographe, 1973
    - The Art of Cinema (translated by Robin Buss, 1992)
  • Poésie de journalisme 1935-1938, 1973
  • Paul et Virginie, 1973
  • Jean Cocteau, poète graphique, 1975 (edited by Pierre Chanel)
  • Lettres à Milorad, 1975 (edited by Milorad)
  • Le passé défini: journal, 1983-2011 (edited by Pierre Chanel)
    - Past Tense: Diaries (introduction by Ned Rorem, translated by Richard Howard, 1987-1988)  
  • Lettres à Jean Marais, 1987 (preface by Jean Marais)
  • Lettres de l'oiseleur, 1989 (edited by Manuel Burrus)
  • Journal 1942-45, 1989 (edited by Jean Touzot)
  • Correspondance Guillaume Apollinaire, Jean Cocteau, 1991 (edited by Pierre Caizergues and Michel Décaudin)
  • Tempest of Stars: Selected Poems, 1992 (translated by Jeremy Reed)
  • Correspondance / Jacques-Emile Blanche, Jean Cocteau, 1993 (edited by Maryse Renault-Garneau)
  • Jean Cocteau, correspondance, Jean Hugo, 1996 (edited by Brigitte Borsaro and Pierre Caizergues)
  • Lettres à Jean-Jacques Kihm / Jean Cocteau, 1996 (edited by Françoise Bibolet and Pierre Chanel)
  • Mots et plumes: sept ans d'amitié, 1956-1963: lettres à Jean-Marie Magnan, 1999 (preface by Jacques Lovichi)
  • Œuvres poétiques complètes, 1999 (edited by Michel Décaudin)
  • Correspondance / Jean Cocteau, Darius Milhaud, 1999 (edited by Pierre Caizergues and Josiane Mas)
  • Correspondance, 1917-1944 / Max Jacob, Jean Cocteau, 2000 (edited by Anne Kimball)
  • Théâtre complet, 2003 (edited by Michel Décaudin, et al.)
  • Œuvres romanesques complètes, 2006 (edited by Serge Linarés, preface by Henri Godard)
  • Mémoire de Jean Cocteau: lettres à Jean-Marie Magnan, 2007 (preface by Jacques Lovichi)
  • Lettres à Pierre Borel, 1951-1963, 2009
  • Lettres à Mario Brun, journaliste, 2010 (preface by Nicole Dubus Vaillant)
  • Jean Cocteau: les murs tatoués, 2013 (photographies, Suzanne Held; présentation, Carole Weisweiller)
  • Jean Cocteau: correspondances 1910-1920 (Marie Scheikévitch-Tristan Tzara-Julien Lanoë), 2019 (sous la direction de David Gullentops)

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